"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." -John 14:1-7
Well, we are continuing again with our I am statements that Jesus makes, and when we have one more Sunday after this, I was looking forward to this one, and I'll have to say things have taken a little bit of a turn in my preaching on it today than where I'd originally thought I was going, because as I started looking at this, and it's a very familiar one, it's one that often I preach on and often gets requested at funerals, because there are some promises that Jesus makes in this 14th Chapter of John that are good ones that we wanna be able to turn to those... And I hadn't really thought about it until this week, but Jesus opening in Verse 1 is not exactly a strong opening, it's words that maybe we wanna hear at the time of a loss of a loved one, but it's also one of those statements that has the potential of having the opposite effect. Have you ever made the mistake of uttering one of those phrases with good intentions that has the opposite effect? Phrases like, Just relax. Calm down. It doesn't work, does it? You might try it once or twice, but you realize that it usually does have that opposite effect, that if someone's hysterical and you're saying, relax, calm down, it usually ratches things up a couple levels.
Well, Jesus is speaking to the disciples this morning and says, Don't let your hearts be troubled. Now, this passage falls within a body of chapters and John that are referred to as Jesus' farewell discourse. And if we look back just a verse or two at the end of chapter 13, this is when Jesus tells Peter, Hey, look, you're gonna deny me three times before the cock crows. And then the next words out of Jesus mouth are, Don't let your hearts be troubled. Now, I don't know about you or anybody else that would have been present, but I think for Peter, those words would not have had that effect. Wait a minute, you just said, I'm gonna deny you. What do you mean? Don't let my heart be troubled, and yet Jesus, Jesus can speak these words with some authority, because he follows it up with the reasons why those who are listening should not let their heart be troubled. Jesus begins by saying, Don't let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, and believe also in me. And then he begins telling them, in my Father's house, there are so many rooms, and I'm going to prepare a place there for you.
And if I prepare a place, I'll come and I'll take you to where I am. And you know the way to where I'm going. I think Jesus is knowing where this conversation is going, he spent three years with these disciples after all... I can't imagine the number of times Jesus just shook his head thinking, Oh, my word. Are they ever gonna get it? And it's Thomas, who speaks up and says, How can we know the way when we don't know where you're going? Which brings us to this I am statement that Jesus makes. He set him up, he laid the groundwork, he said, alright, I'm going to go to that place and prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you may be also... And you know the way, and Thomas says, Wait a minute, but we don't know where you're going, how are we gonna know the way... If any of you ever have been using a cell phone or GPS or had somebody who simply gave you directions and gotten lost, in spite of all of the maps and things you have available that you get lost... It's happened to me, and it's usually because I'm following a set of directions that involve something like, turn left at the second stoplight and then go three blocks and turn right...
Those are good instructions, they're clear, their understanding you count how many stop lights you count how many blocks. The problem is, if you're starting in the wrong spot and start counting those lights and blocks, it's not getting you where you're going, you need to know where you're at, you need to know what the beginning point is for those directions to make any sense. And that's where Thomas is kind of struggling with this, saying Jesus, How can we know the way if we don't even know where it is you're going to... We need some frame of reference for all of this, and that's when Jesus gives them that frame of reference and speaks those words, I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. Now, there's a lot that we need to begin looking at and talking about in here, because one of the things about this statement is that often it's used as a criticism, as a rebuke, as a statement in which people are said, Okay, there's only one way, because Jesus even follows this statement up by saying, No one comes to the Father except through me, and is seen as a very exclusive statement, either you're in, you're out, and it's almost as if Jesus is the bouncer at the door saying, No, you can't come in, or yep, you've got your ticket stamped to come on in, and it's used exclusively in that regard, it's used as a counterpoint to a Hindu statement that sometimes gets expanded into this idea of pluralism of many different beliefs, and the Hindu quote is many roads lead to the top of the mountain. But the view is the same. There are some people who have taken that to say, well, there are many roads that lead to God, but they're all equal and all of value.
Well, that's a whole different discussion for another day, but the idea is that this statement is taken from John is saying, Oh no, there are not many roads that lead to the top of the mountain in the view is not the same, because Jesus said, I am the way, and the problem in doing so is that people insert a word and they say... As if Jesus said, I am the only way. But he doesn't... And other scholars look at this text and say, This is not exclusivism, this is particularism, by that they mean this text, this passage was not spoken universally to everybody, it was spoken to those people who were sitting at Jesus feet, those people who knew who he was those people who would listen to his message and to them, he's saying, I am the way...Thomas, you just ask, What is the way I am the way to all of you who know who I am and have been listening to my teaching and witnessing the miracles, and looking at how I treat and love and offer God's word to others, to you, I am the way. It changes our understanding a little bit to think about who Jesus audience is, who he's speaking to, because it's kind of like that idea of... You have to know where you're at on the map.
For someone who has not entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, to tell them Jesus is the only way. You need to do what He says. And they're still saying, Who's Jesus? Those instructions aren't gonna help them, but for those who know who Jesus is, for those who have entered into that relationship with Him, Jesus then speaks those words. Alright, I am the way. Now, part of what we do need to understand as well is how we use this word: “way” can be a road or a path that people travel, that is a means of getting from here to there. And sometimes we hear this passage and we think, Oh, Jesus is saying that as long as we follow that straight and narrow and walk that path that he is, then we'll get to this destination. Then we will enter into the Kingdom of God. But the thing about Jesus said about his use of this word while these metaphors are getting mixed, Thomas is hearing Jesus is saying, I'm the road that gets you to where you're going.
He's saying, How do we know where you're going? Jesus is using another understanding of this word way, away can also be a method or a manner in which something is done. In fact, this idea of a way was used in Jewish teaching prior to Jesus. And so the way of Jesus isn't step-by-step following the dotted line to get you where you're going, but rather Jesus is saying, I am the way I am the method, look at me and be an imitator of me. Love as I love. Treat others as I treat them. Humble yourself as I am humble. Love and serve God as I do. And so suddenly this way that Jesus is talking about no longer is just walking along, not just a membership card to the club that requires nothing else of us, Jesus says, I am the way, and if you're gonna see the father, you need to change your lives, you need to alter how you live and act and treat other people, and you need to do things the way I do them, and suddenly then it changes how we begin thinking about our role and what Jesus is inviting us to.
Now, he follows this statement up with the I am the way, the truth and the life, now one way that we could look at this is that it's kind of the I am statements contracted into one... We could insert some words into there and read it to say, Jesus said, I am the way, I am also the truth, I am also the life, but many of the commentators look at that and say, No, no, the way that this is written, is that the main point Jesus is making is to say, I am the way. Truth and life actually reinforce what Jesus is saying about him being the way. When Jesus says, I am the way and the truth. Well, by following Jesus' way, by leading our lives by following his example, we discover the truth of who God is, that by living the life that Jesus is calling us to, we are entering into and understanding that truth of God all the more. When Jesus says,I am the way, the truth and the life. Well, it reminds us of what Jesus said in that I am statement about the resurrection, that in and through him is the only way in which we can know and experience true life.
It reminds us of that I am statement in John says, I am the good shepherd, I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. That all of these are woven together, that this life that Jesus is offering kind of culminates in this statement.
One commentator that I was reading said that really, if we wanted to summarize the theology of the Gospel of John into one sentence, it would be this sentence that Jesus spoke when He said, I am the way, the truth and the life. That everything is about re-orienting and changing our lives through the one who is incarnated, in fact, in John's gospel, it begins with the incarnation of this radical change about how the world is viewed.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, that the one who came into the world is the one who now is setting for us a new example. So That brings us to those particulars of, what does this mean then? For how we live our lives. What does this mean for us? When we try to understand what it is that we should do. There's a woman named Ann Howard, who was writing a reflection on this passage, and she talked about the... John 14:6, when Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me. Was a passage she struggled with... She said, as a young girl growing up in Minnesota at the age of 10 years old, her family hosted some foreign visitors, and one of those guests that came and stayed at their house for a period of time was a Russian man named Yuri. And in conversations around the table, Yuri shared that he didn't believe in God and he didn't believe in Jesus. And Ann as a young girl said to her mother, I'm sad and worried for Yuri because he's not gonna go to heaven as he... And the mother wisely responded to an and said, Christianity is not a club, it's not about who's in and who's out, it's about how we live, it's about how we live, it's about how we observe Jesus the way, and seek to model our lives after him. In fact, those early Christians, before the team turn Christian ever came about, were referred to as followers of the way Jesus lived and demonstrated a way of life, a way of being… A way of loving and serving others, and those early Christians sought to model their lives after him, and so they were referred to as followers of the way. Well, Christian, when that term did come about, literally means little ones like Christ, that Christians are those who are like Christ.
Now, if there's anything exclusive or anything that seems to put some weight behind this, it's the burden that is on us, because the truth of it is that there are often times where the compassion that we demonstrate doesn't look much like the compassion that Christ demonstrated, the way that we treat other people, the way that we speak about others, the way that we engage in conversations, all fall short of that example of Jesus, but this particular statement of Jesus is one that is being spoken to each of us who are here, because we're here... because of Him, we're here to hear this gospel message this good news that He is calling us to. And so Jesus says to all of you, I am the way. I am the way that will make known to you the truth and the life that is only possible through God.
If you know me, you know God, and no one can get to the Father except through me. The statement where Jesus says, No one can get to the Father through me could probably more accurately be translated or interpreted, none of you... To those that Jesus is speaking to. None of you can get to God except through me. He's not talking about those people out beyond the fold, he's not talking about those people who may have other beliefs, he's talking about those who have shown up because of Him, those who have shown up and love him, and they're doing their best to be like him. None of you will get to the Father except through me. Friends our calling as Christians. Journey in this way that Jesus calls us to is an honor, a privilege, a gift that he has given to us by inviting us into that relationship. And our job is to continue to see Christ and imitate him the best that we can. And when it comes to those who maybe don't know who he is, well, rather than spouting at them a list of rules of dos and don'ts and things that they should do to follow Him, well, the best thing that we can do for them is say, Hey, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Jesus. He's made a difference in my life. I'm trying to be like him. And I think you might like to do the same. It's not our job to decide who's the inner who's out, who has a membership card or not, our job is to know Jesus to be like Jesus, and help others to discover who he is as well.